custom search for instructional videos

Tony Hirst at the Open University has put together a nice custom search engine called “How do I…?“. It restricts it’s search to sites that offer “howto” videos, and the few tests I ran on it (how do I upload to flickr and how do I change screen resolution etc ) were pretty successful – ie. a decent answer on the first page. The format encourages a natural language search – you only need to think about what you want to do and then complete the question, How do I…?

Just tried it with How do I… make falafel and it was fine for that as well.

It sparks my curiosity because I’m convinced that we will need a different “model” to support web2.0 and mobile learning – we can’t possibly do it by sending people out to visit users or equipment that are having problems. User’s will certainly need to be more self supporting, but we will also need to show more intelligence in how we provide assistance – knowledgebases and community support (users helping each other) are essential if we’re to consider supporting 10’s of thousands of people using scores of different services (many of which we will have no control over). This is talking about the future obviously, but it will come.

These thoughts dovetailed neatly with a post in moblearn, the informal blog behind the people working for Tribal CTAD. I’m sceptical about the value of authoring tools for mobile learning in F.E (primary maybe), as ubiquitous learning – self documentation – micro-content/reinforcement exercises via twitter et al. seem to be the things that are working: but these are the people linked to the biggest initiative in mobile learning in the sector and this is what they have to say about “support” (their emphasis):

“And what about support? From our experience, we have NEVER had decent technical support from ANY of the phone companies who have supplied the devices.”

Ho hum.


ScienceHack is a video search site where all the videos are screened by a scientist/specialist to verify their quality and accuracy. It pulls videos from Youtube/Googlevideo/VideoJug etc and presents a neat search page so you can search by discipline. You can also subscribe via rss, so it will automatically update you when new content is added. This is a clip about Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiments at Yale in 1963.

where’s the soap?

I’ve been looking at the Google Custom Search feature, this allows you to setup a search page that will use Google to search only the sites/resources that you specify – pretty neat. What moves it into the “seriously useful” category is a gadget, available here, which allows you to tell it to automatically use the sites listed on your blog roll or links page as the resource list it will target. Since you’ve already selected those links for relevance – you get a focussed “deep” look into them for about 60 secs work (that’s how long it took to do) – or it would have done, but…. Continue reading